2018 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Nominee Combines Ministry & Recovery Through “Abiding Word Church Disaster Response Team”

We hear it in places destroyed by disaster.

The sound of chainsaws symbolize recovery, rebuilding, and relief. So does Jason Schneider.

"He likes the sound of chainsaws and when you're doing tornado recovery, the sound of a chainsaw is truly a wonderful, wonderful sound and so you associate those things with Jason," explained Cheryl Shagena, who nominated Jason for the 2018 Jefferson Awards. "The good that comes after the bad, you associate that with Jason. Superman - you associate that with Jason."

However, instead of a cape, Jason wears a bright-colored shirt that reminds him of the reason for his work leading the Abiding Word Church Disaster Response Team. On the back, it has the mission of the church in Sterling, Illinois - "Love God. Love People. Serve the World."

Jason was inspired by a husband and wife disaster ministry based in Oklahoma. Abiding Word Church teamed up with them after the 2011 tornado in Joplin and the 2013 tornado in Moore.

"We put together a group of 50 or so people in our church and took a charter bus down," Jason said. "That was my first exposure to disaster work, disaster ministry, and we worked for a week with them, came back home, that was kind of it for that."

Then, "that" hit home. A tornado touched down in Washington, Illinois in November 2013. Then in April 2015, it happened again in Rochelle and Fairdale, Illinois. Jason was there for all of those recovery efforts - chainsaw in hand.

"I really had that passion, that drive, the calling to do this," he said. "With as much stuff as we have in northern Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and the surrounding states - I just I really felt the need to do more with this."

So he got together a trailer, tools, and volunteers. When March 15th, 2016 came around, his team was ready as a tornado landed in our area. The EF2 tore through 40 homes - including Donna Morford's, which was built by her family in the 1800s. Jason was able to save some of her cabinets and help her build a new fence. He was back at Donna's again in the fall of 2017 doing more clean up... and something else.

"The work will get done," Jason explained. "It'll get done eventually, but being there for that homeowner, that community, that resident, being there for them, listening to them, just being that shoulder for them, letting them know that people outside of their community care and we're here to help."

That's why we're recognizing Jason Schneider and the Abiding Word Church Disaster Response Team as a 2018 Jefferson Awards Nominee.

"I've had that passion to help people," he said. "I just love doing this."

The Jefferson Awards Foundation celebrates public service and the people in our communities who are changing lives. Every Wednesday in January and February, WQAD News 8 is introducing you to our 2018 Jefferson Awards Nominees. In April, we will announce our area's Finalist. That person gets to attend the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this summer and meet other Finalists from across the country.

To see who was nominated in all four seasons of the Jefferson Awards, click here.